OGDEN -- For those stuck in the endless cycle of weight loss and weight gain, Trish Brimhall has a solution: quit your diet.
Brimhall, a registered dietitian and owner of a private consulting company, Nutritious Intent, said those wanting to lose weight and keep it off need to ditch the idea of dieting and focus on creating a healthier lifestyle.
“One of the biggest challenges or barriers to weight loss and weight maintenance in this country is that we know how to diet,” Brimhall said. “We go on this roller coaster cycle... We can do anything drastic for a short period of time, and then we’re done because it’s not something that keeps us happy, and we’re not feeling emotionally satisfied doing it. It’s a big problem.”
When meeting new clients who wish to loose weight, Brimhall said she looks at the overall picture, not just the end goal. Food preferences, physical activity level, medical history, dieting history and daily schedule are all taken into consideration when creating a plan for weight loss. Because these factors are so personal, there isn't a one-size-fits-all method; Brimhall asks her clients what “healthy” means to them.
“What does a healthy life look like?” she said. “What does it feel like? Does that mean I sleep better at night? Does it mean I’m not constipated anymore?...Everyone has a different perspective. For a lot of people, it takes a while to find what their own picture of health looks like because it’s going to be different for everyone.”
So, with the idea of a healthy lifestyle in mind, the next step is to implement eating habits that fit the goals and overall lifestyle. Instead of restricting certain foods or food groups, it’s best to be mindful of moderation, Brimhall said.
“Food then becomes food and you can start feeding your body how we’re meant to be feeding our bodies and how it wants to be fed,” she said. “We make small changes because, if you jump into these big diets right from the get-go, you’re going to drop pounds, but how long are you going to maintain that? A diet is bound to die.”
According to Eve Steiner, a registered dietitian and private consultant, restricting food is counterproductive and will always end in disappointment.
“I don’t believe anything is forbidden,” Steiner said. “I don’t forbid anything because that’s setting yourself up for failure...That’s not the correct reaction. There’s no rules. It’s about being mindful of what you’re doing; people can feel it in their bellies and in themselves if they ate too much, so stop doing that and start recognizing hunger for what it is.”
Steiner said some diets, like South Beach or Atkins, aren't bad for you; the failure is in the design.
“The food that is recommended on any of these diet plans is perfectly healthy, so it makes sense that it would work if you would follow it,” she said. “The problem is that no one can actually follow it...So, there’s nothing wrong with the actual plan. The problem is with the restrictions.”
Brimhall suggested several lifestyle implementations to aid weight loss, and none require a chocolate fast.
First things first, drink more water. This doesn't mean giving up Diet Coke, said Brimhall. Drinking enough water throughout the day will leave less room for other beverages which are higher in calories.
“It’s focusing on what we’re putting in rather than what we’re leaving out,” she said. “I never want to leave people with a void to say, ‘Look what I can’t have and what I’m missing.’”
On the same note, Brimhall suggests aiming for nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
“You are not going to have as much room for a lot of the other stuff,” she said. “It’s better to try to add something in than take something out. It will crowd out the rest.”
Her third suggestion: be mindful of signals of hunger and satiety. Brimhall said she has worked with individuals who’s bodies no longer send these internal signals because the signals were continually ignored; mindfulness is an important aspect of weight loss.
“People very rarely stop during a meal and assess how hungry or full they are,” she said. “How hungry are you before you start a meal, during your meal and after your meal?”
The last suggestion: spend more time in the kitchen and eat out less often. Brimhall said the usual restaurant and fast-food portion size is double what it should be; reducing restaurant visits to twice a week will reduce sodium and sugar intake.
“If I could give America one piece advice...I would say cook with your families,” Brimhall said. “I think that would really change a lot.“
When it comes to counting calories, Brimhall said she leaves that decision to her clients. However, she doesn't recommend it; a plate half-full of vegetables is a better guide to follow.
“It makes food a medicine and makes food something that is dangerous,” she said. “It gives food way too much negative power, and I think that messes with us too much long term...I would hate to have a calculator every time I sat down to eat. That would ruin the eating experience.”
And for those who hate to eat their veggies, Steiner has some bad news; she swears by vegetables as the key to weight loss.
“In essence, it’s about what’s more important to you,” she said. “If you want to be healthy, it’s going to have to be vegetables. Then it’s just a choice for you...I can’t force you to be skinny and healthy, no matter how much you pay me. You've got to be an involved person in this attempt.”